Dietary cholesterol intake and cancer

Ann Oncol. 2012 Feb;23(2):491-500. doi: 10.1093/annonc/mdr155. Epub 2011 May 4.


Background: This study assesses the association between dietary cholesterol intake and the risk of various cancers.

Patients and methods: Mailed questionnaires were completed between 1994 and 1997 in eight Canadian provinces by 1182 incident histologically confirmed cases of the stomach, 1727 of the colon, 1447 of the rectum, 628 of the pancreas, 3341 of the lung, 2362 of the breast, 442 of the ovary, 1799 of the prostate, 686 of the testis, 1345 of the kidney, 1029 of the bladder, 1009 of the brain, 1666 non-Hodgkin's lymphomas (NHL), 1069 leukemia and 5039 population controls. Information on dietary habits and nutrition intake were obtained using a food frequency questionnaire, which provided data on eating habits 2 years before the study. Odds ratios (ORs) were derived by unconditional logistic regression to adjust for total energy intake and other potential confounding factors.

Results: Dietary cholesterol was positively associated with the risk of cancers of the stomach, colon, rectum, pancreas, lung, breast (mainly postmenopausal), kidney, bladder and NHL: the ORs for the highest versus the lowest quartile ranged from 1.4 to 1.7. In contrast, cholesterol intake was inversely associated with prostate cancer.

Conclusions: Our findings add to the evidence that high cholesterol intake is linked to increased risk of various cancers. A diet low in cholesterol may play a role in the prevention of several cancers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Cholesterol, Dietary / adverse effects*
  • Diet
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Odds Ratio
  • Registries*
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult


  • Cholesterol, Dietary